Matt Cain sets a new standard for perfection

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With his 125-pitch gem against the Astros on Wednesday night, Matt Cain entered the history books, throwing the 20th perfect game since 1900 and 22nd in major league history.

Cain struck out 14 in the contest, matching Sandy Koufax’s total on Sept. 9, 1965 for the highest strikeout total in a perfect game.

That gave him a game score of 101, which is tied for the second highest in major league history for a pitcher in a nine-inning game. Of course, Koufax, who had the same line, matched him there, as did Nolan Ryan in his 16-strikeout no-hitter in 1991. The top game score in a nine-inning game is 105, from Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout, one-hitter against the Astros in 1998.

Making Cain’s feat more impressive:

– The Giants exploded for 10 runs in the game, resulting in some lengthy waits for Cain in the third and fourth innings.

– The wind was blowing out at AT&T Park for the second night in a row. The Giants had gone 16 straight home games without a homer before hitting two on Tuesday night. Tonight, they hit three homers. The Astros wouldn’t have necessarily needed to get all of one to ruin the perfect game and the shutout bid in one swing. Chris Snyder almost spoiled things in the sixth, only to come up a bit short.

– He got to face opposing pitcher J.A. Happ just once, and position players accounted for 26 of the Astros’ 27 plate appearances tonight. While the Astros aren’t exactly known for having a high-powered offense, they entered the night ranked eighth in runs scored in the NL.

Cain’s perfect game was the first in the Giants’ long history. The 14 strikeouts was a new career high for him.

“I can’t thank [catcher] Buster [Posey] enough,” Cain told MLB.com’s Chris Haft. “I didn’t even question him once. What he was calling, I was going to throw whatever he wanted and I was going to let him go. Buster did an unbelievable job back there. That was tremendous.”

Matthew Stafford audibles with “Kershaw! Kershaw!”

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Last night the Detroit Lions played the New York Giants. During the game Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford called an audible. The call itself referenced Stafford’s childhood friend and high school baseball teammate, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. From the Freep:

Matthew Stafford stepped to the line of scrimmage late in the third quarter and surveyed the Giants defense.

With five pass rushers across the front and three Giants cornerbacks showing a press-man look, Stafford looked at his two receivers to the left and invoked the name of his childhood friend, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

“Give me Kershaw here, Kershaw,” Stafford said, repeating his friend’s name two more times as he spun around at the line of scrimmage.

The audible did not result in a pick-4 to Aaron Altherr. It called for a run up the middle. And it worked nicely, gaining eight yards.

You may suggest the results of other starting pitcher-themed audibles in the comments. I’ll start: “Harvey! Harvey!” is where the QB fakes a handoff, drops back, looks deep and then his arm falls completely off. Damndest thing.

Matt Harvey has a 13.19 ERA since coming back from the disabled list

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Matt Harvey‘s season was mostly a loss due to extended time on the disabled list. He’s been given a chance, however, to end the season strong and make a case for himself in the Mets’ future plans. Unfortunately, he has been unable to make that case. He was shelled again last night, and his late season opportunity has been a disaster.

Last night Harvey gave up seven runs on 12 hits and struck out only two batters in four innings against a Marlins team that, until facing him anyway, had been reeling. It was his fourth start since going on the shelf in mid-June and in those four starts he’s allowed 21 runs, all earned, on 32 hits in 14.2 innings, for an ERA of 13.19. In that time he’s struck out only eight batters while walking seven. His average fastball velocity, while ticking up slightly in each of his past four starts, is still below 95. Back when he was an ace he was consistently above that. His command has been terrible.

Injury is clearly the culprit. He had Tommy John surgery just as he was reaching his maximum level of dominance in 2013. While he came back strong in 2015, he was used pretty heavily for a guy with a brand new ligament. Last year he was felled by thoracic outlet syndrome and this year a stress injury to his shoulder. Any one of those ailments have ended pitchers’ careers and even among those who bounce back from them, many are diminished. To go through all three and remain dominant is practically unheard of.

Yet this is where Matt Harvey is. He’s 28. He’s still arbitration eligible, for a team that is, to put it politely, sensitive to large financial outlays. While his 4-5 start opportunity to end the year may very well have been seen as a chance to shop Harvey to another team, his trade value is at an all-time low. It would not be shocking if, on the basis of his recent ineffectiveness, the Mets considered non-tendering him this offseason, making him a free agent.

Someone would probably take a chance on him because famous names who once showed tremendous promise are often given multiple chances in the big leagues (See, Willis, Dontrelle). But at the moment, there is nothing in Harvey’s game to suggest that he is capable of taking advantage of such a chance. All one can hope is that an offseason of rest and conditioning will allow Harvey to reclaim at least a portion of his old form.